BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary

On December 13, 2019, Mahtab Farid, an Iranian-born American journalist, well respected in Washington, DC, where she works as a journalist, posted her highly critical comments on Facebook about the Voice of America (VOA) Persian Service, calling the current VOA leadership “corrupt.” She is one of many Iranians in Iran or in exile who have posted highly critical comments on social media about VOA’s coverage of the recent unrest in Iran.

In a comment addressed to Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett, Farid wrote: “Your poor coverage of the protests in Iran have been beyond embarrassing.”

“When I joined U.S. Agency for Global Media – USAGM in 2001, as a young reporter, I was proud that I worked with editors who not only checked the accuracy of the news, they also checked the accuracy on policy and translation. Every news package was precise and backed with respected sources. Unfortunately, the current corrupt leadership at VOA has tarnished and destroyed the most effective public diplomacy tool of the US government in the absence of a diplomatic relation between the US and Iran. Watch this translation and you decide. If we censor the news in the US, how could we criticize the Iranian government?? This is all paid by your tax dollars. My opinions are my own and not the media outlets I work for.”

On November 27, 2019, the same Iranian-American reporter posted another critical comment in response to VOA Director Amanda Bennett’s video condemning the Iranian government for harassing journalists:

With all due respect Ms. Amanda Bennett, the Persian Service reporters haven’t left their desks for the recent unrest in Iran, so no need to worry. Your poor coverage of the protests in Iran have been beyond embarrassing. Please stop acting as if Persian service did something extraordinary.

Mahtab Farid

Mahtab Farid is an Iranian-born American journalist, linguist, educator and public diplomacy strategist with background in communication and international relations. For over a decade, Farid covered the conflicts in the Middle East and reported on US policy in the region for Voice of America and for USI News, which she founded. She served in Afghanistan as a public diplomacy officer with the US Department of State. Embedded with NATO troops in Forward Operating Bases of Ghazni and Bagram, Farid facilitated conflict resolutions, cultural initiatives, and trained over 90 Afghan journalists including women to help Afghans tell their stories. Upon return from Afghanistan, she joined Georgetown University as a Boren Scholar and taught language and culture at Defense Language Institute. Farid is the recipient of US Department of State Expeditionary Service Award for her service in Afghanistan. She works now as a journalist and radio host in Washington, DC.

Independent experts hired by the agency itself concluded in an American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) study issued in late 2017 that some of its broadcasts to Iran helped to spread propaganda and disinformation from the Iranian Islamic regime.